Study finds arsenic in US wines

A newly published study by scientists at the University of Washington has found that almost all US-produced wines tested contained arsenic levels higher than those permitted in drinking water. However, a companion study concluded that estimates of the health risk from dietary arsenic should be based on the whole diet.

The researchers tested 65 wine samples produced in America’s four main wine-producing states, California, Washington, New York and Oregon. All but one were found to contain arsenic at more than the 10 ppb upper limit for potable water set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The levels found ranged from 10-76 ppb with an average concentration of 24 ppb. All the samples also contained inorganic arsenic – the most toxic form of the element.

According to the study’s authors, arsenic occurs naturally in soil and although contamination levels in US-produced wine were found to be higher than for wines produced in Europe, this is probably a result of differences in the underlying geology of wine producing regions.

The health risk from arsenic in wine is estimated to be low, other than for people who consume a lot of wine with the highest arsenic levels. However, the University of Washington researchers also conclude that the significance of arsenic in wine needs to be seen in the context of the diet as a whole and is greater if other foods known to be high in the element, such as rice and apple juice, are also regularly consumed.

The wine study is published in the Journal of Environmental Health and an abstract can be found here.

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